2015 was a bad public relations year for the police. It was hammered by the Black Lives Matter movement and other leftists. President Obama did his bit stating, “you know as well as I do, that the tensions in some communities, the feeling that law enforcement isn’t always applied fairly, those sentiments don’t just come out of nowhere.”
But even with all the bad PR, trust in the police increased this year according to a Gallup poll. 56 percent of those polled rated the honesty and ethical standards of police officers “high” or “very high” (and only 14 percent said “low” or “very low”). Though not an overwhelming vote of confidence, the high-very high number is 8 points above last year’s, in line with Gallup surveys since 2002, and better than the numbers in the last 20 years of the previous century.
What drove America’s faith in the police back up in 2015? Herein lies the most interesting aspect of the survey: the rebound was driven mostly by African-Americans. In 2014, less than one-fourth of them believed in the honesty and ethics of police officers. This year, 40 percent do.
What drove this mini-revival of faith in police by African-Americans? I don’t know.
The Michael Brown incident occurred in August 2014. In March 2015, the Justice Department cleared Officer Darren Wilson of civil rights violations. Perhaps this had something to do the poll numbers. However, Freddy Gray’s death occurred in 2015 and the officers involved have not been cleared.
It’s possible that the poll numbers reflect a “Ferguson effect.” Maybe police officers are being less aggressive and less proactive in policing African-American communities, and this is making them less unpopular. Personally, I doubt that a “hands-off” approach would endear the police to most blacks in poor neighborhoods, given the adverse impact of crime on their daily lives. But who knows?
By the way, police officers remain among the most trusted professionals. In Gallup’s survey, they rank behind only nurses, pharmacists, medical doctors, and high school teachers.
Bringing up the rear are lobbyists, just behind telemarketers, members of Congress, and car salesmen.
Lawyers are near the middle of the pack, but underwater nonetheless. 21 percent rate them very high or high in honesty and ethics, while 34 percent rate them low or very low.
Journalists are also underwater at 27-30.
For what it’s worth, being quite familiar with lawyers and journalists, my faith in them is “average” and “low,” respectively.